How to Grow a Consulting Firm into a Business Empire with Peep Laja

July 19, 2021
The Recognized Authority Podcast Cover

The podcast that helps independent consultants & subject matter experts to get more clients without having to beg for referrals, or make soul-destroying cold calls!

Peep LajaGrowing a consulting business is not easy, turning it into a business empire is a formidable challenge.

In this episode, Peep Laja and Alastair McDermott discuss how Peep grew his SEO consulting firm by niching down and creating high value content.

They also discuss how every company is becoming a media company for their niche.

Listener feedback about this episode:

Show Notes

Guest Bio

Peep loves business. He does a lot of thinking about B2B strategy, competing and winning.

He’s building a portfolio of companies, serving as a founder and his own angel investor. He uses the profits from existing businesses to build new ones.
What’s different about his approach is that he’s not acquiring companies or investing in startups. He builds each business from ground up – from opportunity spotting to customer development to product-market fit. He takes the business to millions in revenue, build a team, and eventually lets them take over day-to-day business ops.

His businesses: CXL, Speero, Wynter.

Transcript

SUMMARY KEYWORDS
people, business, niche, started, build, consultant, conversion optimization, agency, company, write, learning, big, sell, called, case studies, content, audience, article, money, servicing

SPEAKERS
Alastair McDermott, Peep Laja

 

Peep Laja  00:00

You’re a you’re a media company, a media channel for your niche. So pick your niche. What are those people that you’re selling to what do they care about, and then you’re constantly also demonstrating expertise. And the medium is irrelevant. So you, so you can, you can do a substack, you can do a newsletter, you can do YouTube, a podcast, and you know all of the above and like some places you just have to be like, as a consultant if you’re not on Twitter or LinkedIn, you’re like, intentionally stupid.

 

Voiceover  00:26

Welcome to The Recognized Authority. A podcast that helps specialized consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott!

 

Alastair McDermott  00:42

My guest is Peep Laja of Wynter, Speero, and CXL. And I’ve been following Peep for years as he grew conversion XL and more recently, as he’s built a portfolio of companies serving as his own angel investor. He is building each business from the ground up from opportunity spotting to customer development to product market fit. So Peep, can you first tell us more about the businesses in your portfolio?

 

Peep Laja  01:07

I have a consulting company called Speero, which is an experimentation and customer experience management company servicing mid-market and large enterprises. Then there is CXL, which is a marketing e-learning company marketing courses, and then there’s Wynter, which is a b2b SaaS company, for product marketers to help them validate their messaging.

 

Alastair McDermott  01:27

Right. Okay. So I think that I first came across you when the CXL was Conversion XL, which was in an agency, conversion rate optimisation agency, right.

 

Peep Laja  01:37

Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  01:38

And so when before you started this kind of this empire of, of different businesses, you started out, you’re actually a solo consultant. Is that right?

 

Peep Laja  01:46

That’s right. So I used to work in sales and marketing, and then through by accident, I became an entrepreneur. And the easiest way to start a start your career as an entrepreneur is to become a consultant, you know, you only need a website at some skill.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:00

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  02:01

And so, SEO PPC, in 2007.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:05

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  02:05

That’s how I started.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:07

Excellent. And in fact, that’s exactly where I started as well, in 2007, doing SEO, when I when I left my software engineering job. So where are you are now you started off as consultant? It sounds like you develop that then into an agency. And then you tried,

 

Peep Laja  02:21

Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  02:22

Spun that off. So can you talk to us a little bit, because I think there’s gonna be a lot of people listening to this, who were really interested in those first years in how you got going and how you started turning the kind of turning the big flywheel or pushing the boulder up the hill? And how did you take that small solar consultant and grow that business?

 

Peep Laja  02:41

Well, in the beginning, I did not really have a vision for what you know what it should become, it was more about just paying the bills. So it was like hunting for another client and trying to sell my skills. And as a consultant, you get to see the kitchen side of so many businesses. So it’s really a great broad education, you know, people have various challenges. And then so it was that part of my journey I really think of as my skill set building. So I was, you know, doing SEO and some content, PPC, I was building websites, coding them up, I was a software development developer back in the day. And then that went on for a while.¬† And then I had I landed on an idea. So I also started to sell an online course in 2008. In this learning market. I’m from Estonia, originally. And so in Estonian, Estonian market, I ran a digital marketing blog, which became the the biggest in the country, but Estonia is a very small country. So I was like a big big fish in a tiny pond. And, and I sold the course on digital marketing, and that, you know, maybe some money, and then I discovered back then now it’s so easy to start your own course, you know, back then it was very hard. So 2009 was my very first attempt at a SaaS company, a SaaS company for his online course creator kind of like teachable is now thinking, and that failed.¬† So two years of that, and so I still supported myself as as a consultant on the side because the SAS company was not making any money. And then two years after the SaaS company after basically after two years, I had to shut it down because it wasn’t quite dead. But it wasn’t alive either. It was kind of a zombie company. And so I kind of asked myself, so what did I learn from this SaaS failed SaaS experience. And what I learned was that I had no audience to sell to, I had no money to buy an audience like to buy a lot of traffic. And I had no name recognition, because I was known in Estonia, but by then I already wanted to tap into the US market, but where I’m living now, and so I told myself, okay, so I’m going to build another business, but this time around, I’m going to do it in reverse. I am going to build an audience first, and then figure out what is it that they want to buy and then sell it to them? And so I started a blog. Conversion Excel.

 

Alastair McDermott  05:01

Yeah, I remember it well, back around then I was doing something quite similar. I was consulting. And what I built on the side was an E-learning business, teaching people how to build their own WordPress websites that failed miserably. Because in parse those are really bad people to target to try and get money from. But also, yeah, there was a huge amount of competition. I’m we, we didn’t really pick a narrow audience, and we didn’t start with an audience. So yeah, I already feel you on that. So okay, so you decided to build an audience? How did you choose which audience to go for?

 

Peep Laja  05:42

Actually, it was a lot of SEO, keyword research. So to to so one, a, I knew that I needed to niche down because already in 2011, it seemed like it’s super competitive. I mean, it’s 10 times more competitive now. But back then it seemed like Seth Godin was huge. And Gary Vee was already a wine blogger, you know, things were happening. And so first of all, I decided, Okay, I need to niche down. So let me see what’s in various niches, there were many different marketing niches I was considering, like SEO, PPC, and SEO and PPC, were already the biggest areas of online marketing. However, they were already very competitive, a lot of blogs, a lot of good blogs, you know, Rand Fishkin was a prolific back then already, and so on. So okay, that’s not gonna work.¬† And then I stumbled upon this niche called conversion optimization. And it wasn’t really new, like people have been written about it, writing about it for a number of years. But the blogs in that space, there were maybe five, six blogs, they weren’t that great. So I looked at their, the quality of their blog posts, and I was like, I can dominate this, I can do better, I can do significantly better. Back then most blog posts were like, you know, four or 500 words, very generic and very opinion based, meaning that people were making claims do this, and this will work. And but not offering any proof. And so I, you know, my as my strategy, how I’m going to compete and win, I said, Okay, first of all, I am going to write long form content.¬† And this, this idea came from the stats that there was some some article that I found there was some study that I found that articles with 800 plus words, get more backlinks and more social media shares. Okay, so I was like, at least this long, I’m gonna write long form articles, and then write editorial decisions, like every claim will be backed up by data, link into a case study, a research, study, whatever. And then and then volume, you know, and so I started writing on conversion optimization, and I was prolific, because I, a lot of consultants, were giving me already then push backs, like, now what, like, why would I write blog posts because like, I get clients to serve, like, that’s my work is to serve my clients, I’m like, but if you’re only waiting on referrals, relying on referrals to get business, then let’s say, there’s a bad month, you know, you don’t have any referral. What do you do? Like, wait harder? You need to build up new channels like inbound. So I took blogging very seriously, like, my business depended on it. And the payback was very fast, like within one year. I mean, I think I was getting like 100,000 monthly readers.

 

Alastair McDermott  08:31

When you say you took blogging very seriously. What does that actually mean, in terms of how much time that you spend writing?

 

Peep Laja  08:38

I think on a single article, I spent like, 16 hours, more or less,

 

Alastair McDermott  08:42

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  08:43

Sometimes, and I shipped maybe, you know, at least two articles a week.

 

Alastair McDermott  08:49

You’re spending like, a full time work week, just on purely on writing.

 

Peep Laja  08:54

Back then I was maybe 31 years old when I started, and I just just had my first kid. So if you remember, right, staying up really late at night, you know, like 10pm, I was writing articles. So like, late time, I was, you know, servicing clients and making money. And so I was like, writing and researching at night, and like, most of the writing is research. So out of those 16 hours, you know, easily 12 were spent on research.

 

Alastair McDermott  09:25

Right? Excellent. Yeah, I think that I think that sometimes people underestimate just how, how long it takes to write a really good blog post. Because, you know, they think you know, you can you can sit down and write it write a blog post in an hour and a half, or even less. But,

 

Peep Laja  09:41

if you’re saying, yes, if people because then in an hour, you can write an opinion essay, so if people care about your opinion, if you’re Seth Godin, great, they’ll read it, they’ll share it a million times or if you’re Naval Ravikant, you know, like you say a sentence and it gets a million shares. However, if people don’t know who you are, then I couldn’t care less what you have to say, you know.

 

Alastair McDermott  10:03

Right.

 

Peep Laja  10:04

So opinion articles, I think only become an option. If you if people just want to hear from you, they’re your fans. Right before that you have to write substance, you know, like how to guides and lots of examples and things.¬† So I, when it comes to content, I think there’s, there’s, you need to have an absolute this mindset, there is no point whatsoever to write a mediocre article, because it’s gonna if you if you’re going to spend four hours, write some six or 700 words, and it’s kind of like, that’s good enough, but it’s nothing amazing, then what happens is that a, nobody’s gonna link to it, we’re just gonna share it, I’m just gonna care. It’s as if you never wrote it, it’s never going to rank, it’s never going to bring in any traffic. So you’re better off not writing any.

 

Alastair McDermott  10:50

Right.

 

Peep Laja  10:50

So when it comes to content marketing, I think the content you have to put out is either all in or nothing.

 

Alastair McDermott  10:58

Right?

 

Peep Laja  10:58

So my standard from the get go was that every topic that I chose, I’m going to write about this thing, or like best says homepage. Maybe,

 

Alastair McDermott  11:09

So, you’re trying to write the best blog post in the world.

 

Peep Laja  11:13

In the world, exactly. So every single article I wrote this was my internal standard standard that is has to be the best article ever written on this topic. And it paid off handsomely.

 

Alastair McDermott  11:25

Yeah. And I mean, it makes sense. Because just purely from a search engine perspective, Google wants to rank the best articles to answer people’s questions when they search. And if you’ve got the best article in the world, Google will naturally want to rank that number one that makes,

 

Peep Laja  11:40

Totally, of course, now, today, 2021. So the if you’re if you if you’re just starting out, there’s no way ever you can outrank the old guard, you know, like the companies with DR. And 8590, like HubSpot, like you will never outrank them, I mean, maybe 10 years from now. So you need to pick a different strategy, you will not out compete anybody or, you know, like, if you’re going head to head on, on competitive keywords. Today, I think another is like, the better might not be even a viable strategy unless it’s all furnish. And there might be some industries where everything is up for grabs, like I don’t know anything about industrial machinery and shit like that. So in marketing, it’s very competitive.¬† There might be niches where it’s not so competitive. So what I recommend is that you go for different, unique format of content. So a couple of examples was, there’s this website called UserOnBoard.com, which basically is, it’s like a, kind of like a slideshow where click next, next next one slide at a time. It’s like an onboarding, tear down of a SaaS site, how do they do onboarding, and with commentary, so first, you click here, and then what happened, and then you comment on it. And so when this site was launched, you can look at a hrefs, like the back armor, the black backlinks, it’s gotten completely new, different format. Nobody had ever done it. Then Harry Dry of MarketingExamples.com, you know, some kid came out of nowhere. He’s like, he’s, he’s 20, hasn’t seen life. And now he’s one of the most powerful marketing influencers, because what he does is fucking great. And if you look at what he’s doing, he’s doing these examples with commentary. He’s looking at basic lexicon and like swipe files, right? He’s finding examples of excellent headlines and excellent websites. And he’s adding commentary and beautiful design.¬† So if you look at this shit, you’re like, this is obvious that you should do this kind of stuff. I mean, in terms of the content he produces, but nobody had, and it requires a lot of effort. So every piece of content he creates, I have spoken to him about it. He puts in a shitload of time, which is the moat because most people are not ready to work that hard. He was capable now. He’s like, came from nothing is going to make millions now. Another example is like Growth.designs, the growth marketing agency, again, these guys are doing as the content they’re doing growth case studies. So how did this company become big, you know, so, and again, the unique format, and if you go, I think they told me it takes them like 40 hours per case study or something like this. So a lot of work, a lot of work. But again, all of these problems have already been solved. All the easy challenges have been tackled. So the only way to win is to fucking bust your ass.

 

Alastair McDermott  14:35

Right? So you started out, you decided to build your audience. You chose an audience, and you picked a, you picked a problem area. You didn’t pick a vertical industry to focus on.

 

Peep Laja  14:48

No, conversion optimization was nice enough, it was enough. And so, like doing conversion optimization for pet food companies like this, I would I would never make any money?

 

Alastair McDermott  15:00

Yeah. I think that now maybe, would you agree that now you do need to pick a vertical?

 

Peep Laja  15:08

Like I seen like SaaS or e commerce this way? Yes or like, really depends also on your desired outcome, like, what are you happy with, like, Well how big of a company you’re trying to build here. Like, if your end, end outcome is like 100 million in revenue, you know, need to be careful. If you just want to, you know, have a nice life and make 300k a year, you know, sure, we can do just, you know, a personal finance zero ratio, get all the case studies, you can get all the clients you get, you can get, get to know all the people, you can do proper account based marketing, it’s just way easier. So it really, really depends on what is a nice outcome for you.

 

Alastair McDermott  15:52

Sure. Okay. So what advice would you give to somebody who is just starting out? Maybe, maybe they’ve, maybe they’ve come from a corporate background, and they’re subject matter experts. And they’re, they’re trying to start their business as consultant like, like you did? And they’re not sure yet, maybe if they want to develop it into an agency, or if they want to stay solo, but they know that they want to increase sales, they want to build it build an audience, they want to build some income, what advice would you have for somebody who’s in that situation?

 

Peep Laja  16:22

Two key pieces of advice. So the niche down, but I a hundred percent agree. So if we’re looking at any category, there’s a lot of the positions in any category in a mature category are very, very rigid, like that, who was at the top of the ketchup category 50 years ago, is still number one. And who was number two is still number two, and 17 is still 17. So there’s very little movement there. And what I’m saying is that if you if you go, if you start chasing an event, or a big category, and you’re number 267, you’re gonna be 267. Also, you know, 10 years from now odds are unless you bring dramatic innovation. So it is better to try to get very specific and be number one or two in that specific category. Because you get in that specific arena, you get all the attention, and you want optimize for mental availability, which means that you are thought of first in a buyer category buyers in a buying situation, like,¬† Oh, I have personal finance, conversion optimization. Who’s Who do I call, right? If you’re number 17, in a big category, they will never call you. Never. It’s it’s really personal relationships and as a very small bit, so it’s better to start your niche. And once you get big and you fucking dominate that niche, you can expand out like Case in point, Tim, fuckin Ferriss, you know, in 2007, when he released his four hour workweek, he was that guy, right?

 

Alastair McDermott  17:57

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  17:58

Now he’s a mainstream guy right now. He’s everything. Yeah. Like, he, of course, he has executed really well on that image and how he’s expanded out. It’s just a good case that I do tomorrow. But he started in a niche.

 

Alastair McDermott  18:14

Right?

 

Peep Laja  18:15

And so that’s one but two, if you’re a consultant, understand that you are in the business of expertise. And you are selling expertise. But how does anybody know that you’re an expert? You need to demonstrate it. And so how do you demonstrate it is through content. And so you need to you need to be producing content. And if you’re not a writer, long for writer, the minimum you should do is you should be posting daily on LinkedIn and Twitter daily. Because the lifetime of a tweet or LinkedIn post is very short. It’s a for a tweet, it’s a few hours for LinkedIn posts, it’s a day, you know. So daily, then write if you can do a video, like a YouTube show, if you can do a podcast, if you can tick tock, whatever, pick a channel that you can stay on and be consistent on or do all of that, right, because you can repurpose the content in all the formats, and then also decide who are your buyers. So let’s say that you pick a niche, which is like personal finance.¬† Okay, so who are the buyers that the smaller the niche them, the clearer it is, who are the people who are going to buy your services, that might be the marketing, they might be the head of product, or the CEOs, the founders, you know, whatever it is, make a list, make a list of those actual people. So if it’s a small niche, this could be this could be a list of 100 people, these these 100 CEOs should become a client because these are these are in my little niche. Now, what do you do? If this you start cultivating relationships with them and get on their radar? Follow them, connect with them on LinkedIn, do not sell anything ever. follow them on Twitter, and if they are, those guys are on LinkedIn and Twitter or other social start engaging with them every single time they post your comment with a thoughtful comment you add to the discussion. And so they get to us get used to seeing your name, and they associate you with somebody who’s insightful. Somebody was always something interesting to say, you cultivate the actual human relationship. And this is a long, long play, right? This is not make money tomorrow.

 

Alastair McDermott  20:19

So that is that’s a long play. Let me just switch back to the blogging for a minute. When you took you said, you took blogging very seriously. And you know, you’re you’re spending 16-20 hours an article? How long did you spend, like how many months? Or how many years? Did it take you to the point where that was actually providing return on investment for you?

 

Peep Laja  20:41

I think it took a year, a year of writing before the audience was big enough that the readers also became leads that there was a consistent flow of incoming leads, whereas they Oh, there’s a business here. Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  20:56

And, and that that’s what Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute says, you know, 12 to 18 months, consistently, without without expecting return on what he would suggest as well. So yeah, so so, I mean, you know, this is not a short term strategy, you got to you got to put in the effort, you got to do the work.

 

Peep Laja  21:18

Yeah. Easy, there’s a,

 

Alastair McDermott  21:19

The payoff, the payoff can be huge, right?

 

Peep Laja  21:22

The payoff can be huge. So what I would also definitely advise is that, okay, to win early business, you want to build up some case studies you can beat, you probably had to be cheaper than the alternative, you know. So if you’re an unknown guy, or a girl like that, you got to have a price advantage, but have some margin. You know, like, if you’re gonna be like, oh, I’ll do this for 100 bucks. You’ll never have enough margin to invest.

 

Alastair McDermott  21:49

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  21:50

So okay, yes, start cheap, but consistently move up market slowly. The way I did it was that every proposal I sent out, I added 10% on top. So if I was able to sell something for $400, next guy gets my proposal for 450. If he accepts, next one is 10%, higher, and so on until I was mainly and you know, sell retainers.¬† As opposed to one offs, huge, you know. And so once I learned that, that I do sell retainers is changed my business. And then eventually, I started with a $400 a month retainer. Now, my agency is charging 20,000 a month. So you move up there, it doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course, and also the profile of your customer changes. It’s easier to start with small businesses. And then you gradually start working with bigger and bigger and bigger. You outgrow your initial set of customers? And that’s just how it is.

 

Alastair McDermott  22:46

Right?

 

Peep Laja  22:46

Yeah. So I hired my first hires, were a developer and a designer, and then myself. And then I hired a project, like a project manager, like coordinate all the things, I was mainly closing the sales, and I was like, the lead consultant, the face for many years.

 

Alastair McDermott  23:03

Yeah. So,

 

Peep Laja  23:05

Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  23:05

So I mean, it sounds to me. And when I talk to people about email marketing and content marketing, it sends to me that subject matter experts, no matter what type of if you want to remain like an individual consultants, what you’re doing inbound, or if you want to grow it into an agency, we’re almost becoming production companies, content production companies. That’s a major focus. You see that as well?

 

Peep Laja  23:30

Exactly. You’re, you’re a media company, a media channel for your niche. So pick your niche. What are those people that you’re selling to? What do they care about? And then you’re constantly also demonstrating expertise. And the medium is irrelevant. So you because you can, you can do a substack, you can do a newsletter, you can do YouTube, a podcast, and you know, all of the above and like something, some places you just have to be like, as a consultant, if you’re not on Twitter or LinkedIn, you’re like, intentionally stupid.

 

Alastair McDermott  23:59

Yeah, yeah. So and just like we’re doing here, I’m demonstrating expertise, building our audience, all of that. Okay. Let me ask, are there any resources that have helped you along your your road any any great people you follow or books you’ve read or podcasts you’ve listened to? I think that has really helped you along your way.

 

Peep Laja  24:18

Yeah, having like, whatever problem and challenge you have, other people have had the problem or challenge and not just one or two, but 1000s. So find those people who are few years ahead of you, and learn from their experience. So for me building the conversion optimization agency, I found this guy was named Craig Sullivan in London, and he became my like a unofficial mentor, you know, I hired him for my workshops, like for my internal workshops for my company, and then also like a lot of informal conversations on how to do stuff, you know, you become your mentor is your your consultant you pay but also becomes your mentor and and a friend, eventually.¬† So somebody who’s just been there and seen more shit, it doesn’t mean that there’s like more intelligent than you are. They’ve just seen more shit. And I’m a huge value there. So I would advise that find somebody who’s doing exactly what you’re doing. But just, you know, it’s like five years ahead of you, you know, they’ve already made the mistakes and that they have the learnings. So there’s there’s huge power there. As far as when it comes to books. So one that I have benefited so much about from is a book called Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham. I recommend the audio book, because he narrates his own book. And it’s amazing. So that is like, as it’s exactly for, for a business builder. You know?

 

Alastair McDermott  25:48

Yeah. Okay. Is he an Irish guy? Sounds like

 

Peep Laja  25:51

He’s in Texas.

 

Alastair McDermott  25:52

In Texas. Okay. Excellent. Road Less Stupid. Excellent, cool. So let me switch to what you’re doing right now then. So you have CXL, which is becoming? That’s now an E-learning.

 

Peep Laja  26:06

So yeah, we started off the agency in two separate brands, so I made a mistake. So basically, six years into conversion excel as as an agency, I got tired of consulting. So I’ve been a consultant for 10 years by that time. And I think being a consultant comes with an expiration date. Not for everybody, but for me, certainly did. So I just couldn’t could not explain. What is a p value for the millionth time. Oh, how many times can you explain the same basic shit again? So I get burned out?

 

Alastair McDermott  26:41

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  26:41

Yeah. And so and I, it’s like, well, what else can we do? What else can I do? Like I’ll have this business card abandoned in. So I serve in my email list, like basically, hey, if I were what else would you buy from me if I was smart enough to sell a deal? And they said, ebooks, courses. And so it shipped me a conversion optimization course.¬† Yeah, they bought it, they were happy. And then the Oh, I have nothing else to sell to these people, they bought the course not good. But your biggest fans won’t want to give you all the money like people who are Apple fans, they buy all Apple products. So that’s when it hit me I need, I can’t just have one core, I need to like a whole bunch of stuff. And so that was part of me building an E-learning company with a lot of stuff.

 

Alastair McDermott  27:23

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  27:23

And at first, we launched it as a brand extension CSL Institute, we call it. So we had an agency’s CXL agency and CXL Institute. But that was a mistake, because a brand cannot stand for more than one idea at a time. And so corrected that mistake last year, when we spun off the agency into a new separate brand, and synchronize it to became just the CXL which the learning company.

 

Alastair McDermott  27:48

And by the way, for anybody listening that spiro.com, which I’ll link in the show notes, is the the agency.

 

Peep Laja  27:54

Yeah. And so while building CXL, the E-learning business, four years or three years into it, I discovered an unsolved problem that we had, which was like, we had a lot of sales pages, landing pages, hundreds, very copy heavy, but we could not, we understood that in order to increase the conversion rates on those pages, we needed to improve the copy on those pages. What’s wrong with the copy, I started to look for a tool. And I found that I found a lot of people with the exact same problem, but no tool. And so that was like this opportunity, you know, solve it. And so I jumped at it. So I built another company, which is now Wynter two, and now it’s evolved into more things. But that was the initial Genesis, solve my own

 

Alastair McDermott  28:41

Why did we Wynter with a Y?

 

Peep Laja  28:42

Yeah, exactly. And who the E-learning business was built on the profits of the agency. Right. And the winter was built on the profits of the agency and the answer to the the learning business. So it’s like, all these businesses are growing and making money. They’re profitable, customer funded, meaning like it’s bootstrapped.

 

Alastair McDermott  29:04

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  29:04

And so I am my own VC, my own angel investors are making bets in the new businesses, and I’m hiring and bringing in management that will run these businesses, you know, like the agency is already self sufficient. I am not involved at all.¬† I mean, I’m on the board. But like day to day activities, I can see CXL, I have a strong management team who’s running the day to day technical operations. For me, it’s the vision, that direction, holding up to standards, things like that hiring. And Wynter is still an early stage where I’m very hands on I mean, I write newsletter, I’m doing support. I’m doing all the sales calls. So it’s still early, early.

 

Alastair McDermott  29:45

But so so winter is where people can go to get feedback on their messaging from their target audience. Right?

 

Peep Laja  29:52

Exactly. Right. So if you sell HR managers, you have a web page selling your product or service, I can put that in front of the age. Our managers who will come and tell you what to think of it, and we’ll find what resonates, what doesn’t, what they care about what they don’t. So it’s testing, validating your messaging against an audience you’re trying to influence. It’s also customer research, you can survey the desired your target audience, what do they want or not? and things like that. So is basically validating your go to market strategies.

 

Alastair McDermott  30:20

Very, very cool. And can you tell us a little bit about Wynter Games?

 

Peep Laja  30:24

Oh, so Wynter Games is the monthly live virtual event series. So when you do marketing for a company is like, Okay, what can I do to get more leads to get more awareness, because awareness is huge. It starts with like, people need to know that you exist, that’s like half the battle, right? If they don’t know you exist, that’s you can’t win the game. And so with winter, my domain ranking is like 35. So basically, with SEO, I can’t rank for shit. Like, I’m not there yet. Maybe, you know, a couple of years from now, but not now. But I still need leads, I still need awareness. How, I mean, I don’t also I don’t have a lot of money to pump into ads.¬† And so I started this monthly virtual event series where, which very easy to organize. So basically, okay, I want to do a virtual event. And I’m using livestorm, as the software was very affordable. And, okay, recruit. I do eight speakers at a time, recruit eight people who knows something. Most people have to speak at an event because everybody wants more exposure. And so I promoted for a month on social media and my email list. And then they asked the speakers to you know, promoted as well. And it’s becoming something. So I’ve done five of these so far. And so the first event I had, like, 750, registrants already strong, and then up to the recent one was like, more than 1800 people. You know, so,

 

Alastair McDermott  31:46

Cool.

 

Peep Laja  31:46

The event itself is developing a mini brand.

 

Alastair McDermott  31:49

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s a cool brand. So I know this from because my friend Louis Grenier was on I think was was your second second series?

 

Peep Laja  32:00

Probably. Yeah.

 

Alastair McDermott  32:02

Okay, cool. So I mean, it’s fascinating how your business career has developed, and, and how you’ve, you’ve gone, you know, through this kind of evolution to where you’re your own VC. It’s, it’s amazing. It’s very inspirational story for us. So can you tell us a bit about a failure that you’ve experienced in business and what you learned from that, and you know, how you dealt with this?

 

Peep Laja  32:25

I guess the biggest failure is the one that I mentioned early on is like my first attempt at a SaaS company. Mistake number one was, this was before the book, Build Measure, learn book, lean startup. So,

 

Alastair McDermott  32:40

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  32:40

I had an idea for a product. And then I went and built it, without developer conducting any interviews, no validation, no smoke testing, that was. And so that led to a product that didn’t really never achieve product market fit. And also, then I had no audience. And, you know, no, no, no money to buy an audience. So

 

Alastair McDermott  33:02

You followed the Field of Dreams model, build it, and they will come.

 

Peep Laja  33:05

Exactly right, like a lot of naivety there. I mean, I’m not like being too harsh on myself, because like valuable lessons were learned that that led me to build the next company, which was a success. And then I developed the audience first mindset. And also, now with my second go at SaaS, with Wynter, the data validation thing that you don’t spend the very expensive developer time developing prior features that maybe nobody wants. So my pre validation methodology has, like, dramatically changed. So now, before shipping, any new big feature, we completely smoke testing it and shipping it in a no code fashion, I put up a page, the buy button on it, people can come and pay me money. And then instead of source software delivering the outcome, we do it manually behind the scenes by hand.

 

Alastair McDermott  33:57

Right? Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  33:58

And so of course, we say, Oh, it’s beta, and it’s gonna take this many days, but I’m validating most important things, like, Does somebody want to pay for the value that we promise?

 

Alastair McDermott  34:07

Yeah.

 

Peep Laja  34:08

Nobody wants to pay for it. They’re not gonna want to pay for it after I spend, you know, $20,000 on developers to actually build it, you know. So everything I ship out, is after I first validate this, and then also if somebody pays, and I do it manually, I learned I learned, oh, when we do code it up. We need to do it this way. Because I’m getting learnings what what is good, what’s bad. There are a lot of things unknown unknowns, you know, like things you don’t know. And then so it’s learning. So that’s, that’s the biggest thing that came out of that, that failure like 10 years ago.

 

Alastair McDermott  34:41

Super. That’s awesome. Thank you. So I know you mentioned the book Road Less Stupid. Do you have any other favorite business type books?

 

Peep Laja  34:50

Another, another book. So it really depends what is the problem that you’re solving for yourself? So I’ve been recently on a big branding And positioning and messaging kind of path. So I would say that if you want to learn more about branding the book, I recommend this called “Obsessed” by Emily Hayward. If you want to learn about positioning, it’s the April Dunford. It’s “Obviously Awesome”. So those are like, really good.

 

Alastair McDermott  35:15

Excellent. Thank you for those great recommendations. Do you read any — non sorry — do you read any fiction?

 

Peep Laja  35:20

Not that often. And when I do, it’s, it’s a non-fiction fiction. It’s been it’s been a while, man. It’s, it’s like, I got small kids. I got a wife. I got two cats. I got you know, got a workout. No, I actually spend a little time reading I spend it on on like, non-fiction stuff.

 

Alastair McDermott  35:45

Do you have a favorite TV show you can tell us?

 

Peep Laja  35:47

I don’t even watch TV, man.

 

Alastair McDermott  35:50

You are obsessed. Awesome. Okay, well, Peep, thank you so much for being with us. Really appreciate your time. And thanks for for. I know we had some common mix ups and stuff. So thanks for sticking through that. And so where can people go if they want to find out more about anything that we’ve been talking about?

 

Peep Laja  36:12

Find me on social Twitter, LinkedIn, I’m posting daily.

 

Alastair McDermott  36:16

And I will link to those from the show notes. Thank you very much. Thank you.

 

Voiceover  36:23

Thanks for listening to The Recognized Authority with Alastair McDermott. Subscribe today and don’t miss an episode. Find out more at TheRecognizedAuthority.com